It’s okay not to celebrate, right? (A post about my lack of PhD)

I recently read an article which advocated multiple celebrations in the lead up to the end of the PhD: submission, viva, submitting corrections, and final ratification.  I am now at the last of those steps, and have been for several months, and I have not celebrated once.  And that’s okay (I think).

It’s now just over eight months since I submitted, and I think most people are done and dusted by this point.  I know that all things take time (probably more time that you initially imagine they will take), but my guess is that most people who receive minor corrections, as I did, have had their degrees ratified by eight months out (maybe not, maybe I am just imagining that).  I feel like everything has take a long time and then a little bit more, and many things were late coming in.  It feels like an age ago that I told my supervisor that I wanted to be finished by the end of the year (in fact, the end of that year was nearly five months ago now), so you can imagine that I am disappointed.  I eventually submitted in August, and my viva was set for November.  I assumed that with the three-week deadine for reports I would receive them at the end of December, but they were late and I didn’t get them until the end of January.  I submitted my corrections in early February and now, nearly three months later, I am still waiting.  You can imagine that I am disappointed.

 

In fact, the whole thing has really made my PhD experience, well, a bit shitty.

At the start of last year I assumed that I would be a doctor by the end of the year, and yet, eight months after submitting my thesis I am still here waiting.  And, the worst thing about it is that I can’t do anything.

And other people have wanted to celebrate, but I just can’t.  Celebrating was the last thing I wanted to do when I submitted.  I was angry, sad, frustrated, and I just wanted to be rid of the whole thing (I still am, and still do).

My viva was a high point, and I am really pleased that went well, but I didn’t really feel like celebrating, knowing that it wasn’t the end yet.

When I submitted my corrections I thought it would be a waste to celebrate, as I assumed I would be celebrating having my degree ratified at the end of February.  Then the end of March.  Now it’s almost the end of April and the deadline for ratification so I can graduate this July is fast approaching.

I am angry, hurt, frustrated, disappointed.  I feel a lot like I have been let down by other people.  I’ve done all the things I was meant to do, and in the time frame that I was meant to do them.  But I have been held up by other people.  I know that sounds a lot like I am trying to lay blame, and I’m not.  I’m just trying to come to terms with the fact that there is actually nothing I can do about the situation that I am in, and I just have to wait.

So, that’s it.  I do not think I will ever feel like celebrating getting my PhD.  I know what I am like, and I think that memories of this time in my life will always be punctuated by anger and sadness.  And, that’s wrong.  I feel like I have been wronged by that.

But, as I said, there’s nothing I can do about it.

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What I miss about running…

What I miss about running is not what I thought I would miss.

I miss the feeling of freedom, the dappled sun on my face, running along the river for hours.

I ran again yesterday for the first time in over a month.  It was hard, and I only managed 2kms (I know, right…) before I had to call it off.  But one thing was great, and that was I am just unfit!  I am just unfit, but that’s something that I can fix!  I can run more and get fitter, and stronger, and faster again!  It’s not like it was before I stopped running when I physically couldn’t run because my body felt like it was made of stone.  Instead, I am just unfit.  And I can fix that (as I have said).

I have been on the new medication for a few weeks now, and I am starting to feel a lot better.  It’s not 100%, but I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever be 100% now.  There will always be a something, but I would rather that something be from medication, and something that I have a bit of control over, than from my own brain attacking itself, which I have no control over.

Looking back over the past two years I realise how much I have lost and gained, and I do not want running to become a casualty of an illness that I cannot control.  So I am going to control it, and that will be a struggle.  An uphill battle.  And, I always hated running hills.

But, at least I can train to get better at it.

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I managed to run! (Small victories)

I recently wrote about the struggles that I have been having running, due to the new medication I am taking.

Well, I managed to run two days ago for a whoppingly great 2.7km.  But – I felt okay.  Not great.  More tired than I should after less than 3km, but not ruined.

Is this a good sign?  I hope so.  I am going to perhaps try and run again tonight after the Neon Toddler is in bed, probably the same route, and see how I feel.

Then I will be taking all of this to the doctor on Friday to say…  Hello!  This is not cool!  Running makes me feel better, it shouldn’t be one of the things that makes me feel worse.

I have also noticed that the exhaustion wears off more quickly in the morning and sets in less quickly in the evening.  I managed to stay up until almost midnight last Saturday.  A and I had a party (which was lovely!) but by around 10:30pm I was starting to get ready to go to bed.  I wasn’t the best host going around as I spent most of the evening sitting down, but that happens.

There was only one sour note on the whole night (which was mostly expected, and I won’t go into detail about), but apart from that it went well (and most importantly my Pavlova was GREAT!).

Anyway – I had better get back to doing some actual work while I have the energy to do so!

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More explanation.

So, as many of you are probably aware, I have bipolar.  Around May of last year I, with my doctors, decided that it was time for me to come off medication.  At the time I was taking Abilify and Fluoxetine.  I was not going very well on the medication – tiredness and brain fuzz, mainly due to the Fluoxetine, and when I was not taking that my obsessive-compulsive behaviour skyrocketted.

I was coping really well off the medication until a few months ago when things really went very downhill.  The only thing I felt that I could competently do was look after my daughter, and almost literally all of my energy went in to that.  I made the decision to go back on medication, and have been back on Abilify for around a month.  Things are going well.

Except when they aren’t, and that’s when I (try to) run.  I am so tired all the time, but more painful that that is that my body just has nothing.  I can’t even say that my body has no energy, because it’s even worse than that.  I have nothing.  I cannot run for more than about 4.5kms (even with significant walking breaks) before my body shuts down.

I am going to talk to my doctor about this at our next appointment, but in the mean time, I am struggling without the ability to run.  And because running has been so difficult, I am losing the will to even try.

As such, the two half marathons, marathon, and ultra that I have planned over the next six months might be a pipe dream.

Please consider supporting me anyway – I am fundraising for Mind, the Mental Health charity, and you can donate here, or by texting EMST83 £xx (i.e. insert the amount to donate, e.g. EMST83 £3) to 70070.

I will update as much as I can, and hopefully will be able to update with some good news soon.  If I cannot run comfortably for 15km within the next month I am going to have to pull out of the two halfs in March, and Paris marathon – my cardio fitness seems to be fine, and I feel that if I can sort out the tiredness then this is an achievable goal.

Thanks.

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Winter running is great because… MORE KIT!!!

IMAG0510Buff, obvs.  Glasses (always contacts during the day and for races).  Sony Walkman waterproof all-in-one MP3 player (although I need a new one of these!).  Tribesports black t-shirt. Kalenji arm sleeves. Garmin 220.

IMAG0514_1As above, plus Nike Victory Women’s Court Skirt. Adidas black-and-white running tights.  Honestly, I only bought these because I couldn’t decided if they were super awesome or super ugly.  But they are awesome.

IMAG0516As above, plus Brooks Pure Connect 2.  I don’t have to tell anyone how much I love these shoes, because I LOVE THEM and THEY ARE THE AWESOME!!!  These are men’s, and obviously very, very green. IMAG0518And all as above, plus a Quencha Extend 0-10L vest.  Honestly, it’s a good enough vest but I would like to get a more sturdy one.  It’s very light, and I mainly use it for longer runs (clearly) and for times I run to pick up the Neon Toddler from nursery, and need to take her a drink, myself a jacket, and our Oyster, and keys.

I ran tonight, and other tragedies

I went for a run tonight and it was rubbish.  More on that in a moment.

During last year’s Ealing Half I struggled to find a rhythm.  I spend 21.1 kms battling myself to find a stride that I could, um, stride into.  Well, I searched and searched for rhythm during that run and the rhythm just didn’t come.  If I had spent any time in training dealing with this issue then it probably wouldn’t have derailed me as much as it did (at the start… although I struggled the whole race, I kind of got used to the struggle, if that in any way makes sense).  So, after that I was determined to be a bit more of a hard arse when it came to not bottling out on training runs that weren’t particularly going to plan.  So, that’s what happened tonight.

I ran from home to Neon Toddler’s nursery – it’s about a 6.8km run, and mostly flat.  Oh my gosh, tonight it was just terrible.  I felt like I was moderately pushing the pace and just not going anywhere (as in something in the vicinity of 20-40 seconds per km slower than my normal easy pace).  My feet were hitting the ground in odd and unexpected ways, and going all over the place.  Even when I was consciously trying to run ‘to form’ things just were not happening.

About 1.5 km in I stopped and took off my long sleeve, because I was just slightly too hot.  I love the blistering heat when all I have to do is sit by the pool and drink a beer, but when I’m running I’d rather be a lot too cold than a little too hot (god help me if I ever decide to run a desert race…).  So, off came the jumper, but the running didn’t get any better.  So, on I struggled.

And struggled.

And struggled.

But, I didn’t give in (I easily could have stopped anywhere on my particularly route and taken a bus).  And gosh my run was awful.  But, it was also one of those days that – for totally no reason whatsoever, even in the face of an awful run – things were just good.  Running was good.

And that was that.  I guess ‘train through pain, to race through pain’ can also just as easily be ‘train through weird, uneven, nothingness to race through weird, uneven, nothingness’.

It all helps.

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